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Welcome to AWC’s online library of Legislative Bulletin and CityVoice news articles and other updates.

Published on Monday, August 14, 2017

School siting, buildable lands and GMA review addressed during 2017 session

It was a quietly significant legislative session on land use and growth management issues. Several long-running policy debates came to a head and a potentially wide-ranging growth management act review process was given the go ahead with funding in the budget. For the most part, cities fared well in the outcomes of these issues.

School siting

For many years advocates for school districts have come to the Legislature seeking assistance for districts facing challenges siting schools outside of urban growth areas (UGAs). Their concerns have been varied. Some face challenges with regional plans which preclude the siting of schools outside of UGAs if they serve urban students. Others need to extend utility services outside of UGAs.

AWC and cities have historically supported some measure of flexibility for schools, so long as local control for cities is retained, impacts are mitigated, and costs of service extensions and other impacts are borne by the school district. The bill that finally passed (HB 2243) met those tests. Schools are authorized for siting outside urban areas, at the consent of the affected cities and county. Any impacts of the facility must be mitigated as required in the State Environmental Policy Act (SEPA). Utility extensions are permitted, at the consent again of the city and county, and with all costs borne by the school district. There was some controversy about a provision of the bill that allows immediately adjacent landowners to connect to sewers installed for the school. That provision was initially vetoed by the Governor but later in session agreement was reached and the same provision was ultimately passed again and signed.

Buildable lands

Concerns from the development community about the “Buildable Lands” review process undertaken by urban counties has for several years yielded bills that cities have opposed. A more collaborative approach this year led to resolution of another long-standing policy discussion in the form of SB 5254. The developers sought changes to the review process that would, from their perspective, better incorporate market realities and land usability concerns into city and county evaluations of whether sufficient land exists to accommodate planned growth. Local governments have opposed proposals that would have instituted new requirements that relied on qualitative information or data that was otherwise unattainable such as land owner willingness to sell. This session there was a series of negotiating meetings which allowed all parties to find common ground and identify short-term law changes that all could live with. The changes include direction for a forthcoming stakeholder process to identify changes to the Department of Commerce's guidance for the buildable lands review. AWC will be coordinating with city planners to participate in that process.

Since state funding to conduct this mandated review has been greatly reduced over the years, we made it clear that renewed funding from the state is necessary. In the end the bill passed with language spelling out that any future buildable lands responsibility for counties and cities (under the old guidance, or under the new, yet to be developed guidance) is contingent upon sufficient funding from the state.

GMA review

Finally, for several years legislators have discussed implementing some sort of large scale review of the Growth Management Act (GMA). This year the state provided funding to the Ruckelshaus Center, a facilitation group housed at the University of Washington and Washington State University, to undertake a series of guided stakeholder and public conversations about growth management and related issues. The goal is to identify areas where there is enough common understanding of challenges and opportunities to warrant additional focused policy discussions. AWC will be actively participating in this process, to ensure that city voices are heard and that city concerns are considered.

Bill #

Descriptive title

Final status

HB 1017

Allowing for the siting of schools outside of Urban Growth Areas

Law (Partial veto); Effective 7/23/2017

HB 1503

Clairifying that counties may authorize homeowners to conduct inspections of on-site septic systems

Law; Effective 7/23/2017

HB 1683

Clarifying the requirement to provide sewer service within an Urban Growth Area

Law; Effective 7/23/2017

HB 2243

Allowing for the siting of schools outside of Urban Growth Areas

Law; Effective 10/19/2017

SB 5254

Ensuring adequacy of buildable lands in urban growth areas and providing funding for low-income housing and homelessness programs

Law; Effective 10/19/2017

SB 5517

Allowing for rail dependent uses in rural areas in certain counties under the Growth Management Act

Law; Effective 10/19/2017

SB 5674

Allowing for final plat approval to be delegated to planning commission or staff

Law; Effective 7/23/2017

HB 1013

Reducing overlap between the State Environmental Policy Act and other laws

Did not pass

HB 1210

Increasing revenue to the oil spill prevention account

Did not pass

HB 1430

Concerning the review and adoption of electrical rules

Did not pass

HB 1476

Ensuring the ongoing viability of on-site sewage systems in marine counties by identifying best management practices with accountability in on-site program management plans

Did not pass

HB 1504

Allowing for rail dependent uses in rural areas under the Growth Management Act

Did not pass – Vetoed

HB 1570

Concerning access to homeless housing and assistance

Did not pass

HB 1632

Concerning rules for on-site sewage systems

Did not pass

HB 1682

Concerning actions by Boundary Review Boards

Did not pass

HB 1740

Using the State Environmental Policy Act to encourage development that is consistent with forward-looking growth plans

Did not pass

HB 1797

Provididng new local options to encourage and fund affordable housing

Did not pass

HB 1846

Authorizing new manufactured housing communities outside of urban growth areas

Did not pass

HB 1885

Clarifying the roles of state and local governments in the regulation and mitigation of water resources

Did not pass

HB 1918

Addressing treatment of groundwater under state water codes to support rural development while protecting instream flows

Did not pass

SB 5024

Concerning groundwater supply availability in areas with ground and surface water interaction

Did not pass

SB 5212

Clarifying the scope of land use control ordinances for purposes of vesting

Did not pass

SB 5281

Concerning rules for on-site sewage systems

Did not pass

SB 5304

Concerning the review and adoption of electrical rules

Did not pass

SB 5412

Concerning the state building code council

Did not pass

SB 5425

Increasing revenue to the oil spill prevention account

Did not pass

SB 5445

Prohibiting the use of eminent domain for economic development

Did not pass

SB 5500

Concerning the state building code council

Did not pass

SB 5615

Authorizing new manufactured housing communities outside of urban growth areas

Did not pass

SB 5652

Concerning actions by Boundary Review Boards

Did not pass

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